Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: November 2, 2018 Guest: Ken Thomas, Jason Johnson, Emily Jane Fox, Brian Bennett, Bill Kristol
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight a split screen in the final days as the President tells his crowd, a blue wave equals a crime wave and a red wave equals jobs and security. While his predecessor Barack Obama warns voters of the attempts to terrify them before Election Day.
Plus, a bombshell from "Vanity Fair", allegations from Trump`s long time former attorney Michael Cohen, the headline Trump repeatedly used racist language before his presidency. The reporter who broke the story standing by to talk with us.
And our final look for the week at how the vote might go and how the President`s party might look different by this time next week as "the 11th Hour" gets under way on a Friday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York, day 652 of the Trump administration and heading into this final weekend before Election Day. We are seeing two very different visions for America from our President`s number 44 and 45.
Tonight Trump and Obama are both on the campaign trail rallying voters on behalf of candidates and key races. The current President held rallies in West Virginia and Indiana during both stops he made a point of touting the strong economic numbers. Today`s new job numbers, especially. But then he went big and deep on immigration.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan, and you see we have more caravans forming. You do see that? Gee, I wonder how that happens. And they want these caravans full of illegal aliens to flood into our country, a blue wave would equal a crime wave, very simple. And a red wave equals jobs and security.
WILLIAMS: So there you have it and former President Obama made appearances today in Florida and Georgia, striking back with an attack on Trump and his message.
BARACK OBAMA, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: In the closing weeks of this election we have seen repeated, constant, incessant, nonstop attempts to divide us. With rhetoric that is designed to make us angry and make us fearful. With images and rhetoric that are designed to exploit our history of racial and ethnic and religious division. To try to pit us against one another.
The good news is in four days, Georgia, you can reject that politics.
WILLIAMS: Former President losing his voice, he`s been using his indoor voice for two years now, on the topic of immigration, the mythical invasion of our southern border that the President has been warning of, he seemed to walk back a remark he made yesterday, a remark we reported on here last night suggesting U.S. troops might open fire at migrants at the border who throw stones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you really OK with the U.S. military firing on the caravan people?
TRUMP: They won`t have to fire. What I don`t want is I don`t want these people throwing rocks. I didn`t say shoot it, but they do that with us, they`re going to be arrested for a long time.
WILLIAMS: While President Trump is out on the road trying to help Republican candidates, there is an explosive new report out tonight from "Vanity Fair" in what may be strategic pre-midterm timing, Trump`s former lawyer turned enemy Michael Cohen tells the magazine he has personally heard Trump use racist language before he took office.
The author Emily Jane Fox who is standing by to join us live here tonight writes Cohen, "Said the President privately uttered chilling racist language in one-on-one conversations." She continues, "During our conversation Cohen recalled a discussion at Trump Tower following the then- candidate`s return from a campaign rally during the `16 election cycle, Cohen had watch the rally on TV and noticed the crowd largely Caucasian. The article quotes Cohen as saying, "I told Trump that the rally looked vanilla on television. Trump responded that`s because black people are too stupid to vote for me.
Cohen also told "Vanity Fair" about an exchange with Trump involving an expression similar to one that the President was accused of using earlier this year. Trump reportedly, said -- Cohen reportedly said, Trump asked him to, "Name one country run by a black person that is not an s-hole then he added name one city". Cohen also recalled a conversation in the late 2000s when he and Trump were traveling to Chicago for a Trump International Hotel board meeting. "We were going from the airport to the hotel and we drove through what looked like a rougher neighborhood, Trump made a comment to me saying that only the blacks could live like this."
You`ll recall Cohen and Trump had had a rather bitter split amid the federal investigation into Cohen, a reminder he has pleaded guilty to charges related to campaign finance violations that he contends were carried out at Trump`s direction. Tonight there has been no response as of yet from the White House, but a source inside the Trump organization told NBC News, Cohen`s allegations were "more lies from a serial liar."
Well, with that, let`s bring in our leadoff panel for a Friday night, three returning veterans, Ken Thomas, political reporter for the Associated Press, the aforementioned Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair", her recent book by the way is "Born Trump: Inside America`s First Family". And Jason Johnson, politics editor at the "Root".
Good evening, welcome to you all and thanks for coming on.
Ken, how -- you`ve been switched over to covering just these midterms from your usual beat, so I ask you, with that in mind, how unusual is this to have two presidents basically head to head race for race as we go into a midterm election on Tuesday?
KEN THOMAS, POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It`s striking. I mean, you have to go back decades to find an ex-president willing to go this hard against a current President in an election. And, you know, look at what has happened in the past. I mean, President Trump led the birther movement against President Obama. When President Obama was campaigning in 2016 against then Republican nominee Trump he called him a con artist. These are two people who don`t like each other.
And they essentially represent, you know, polar opposites of this country, and completely different views. So it`s just been striking to see them go out at each other, and, you know, they`re trying to, you know, essentially prevent -- President Trump is trying to prevent what had happened to President Obama in 2010 and 2014. And run against history and the tides that often sweep against a first-term President.
WILLIAMS: Jason, I want to read you something that Peter Baker wrote over at the "New York Times." About the former President. "Mr. Obama has vented his exasperation loud and often assailing his successor in a sharper, more systematic way arguably than any former President has done in three quarters of a century."
Of course Jason, the folks who are part of Obama`s camp point out that in their view the need has never been this great. My question for you is do you think its convertible into votes? And at some point when is early voting going to change how we campaign and the use of big gun surrogates like this?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, ROOT: Well Brian, its two things. One, I`ve always said that the greatest long-term negative consequence of the Trump administration is the end of norms. We used to live in a time where Presidents could safely go into the night and they wouldn`t say anything about their successors, right. Bush didn`t say much about Clinton. You know, Clinton wouldn`t say much about Bush, and Obama, et cetera, et cetera.
But Trump has pretty much based much of his campaign, and even his life as President of the United States on attacking the previous administration. So that has brought Obama out in a very different way. Now, as far as early voting goes this is a really interesting element of campaigns that we`ve seen and I think it`s going to change, Brian, after these 2018 midterms. I am in Florida now. I have been in Georgia throughout this campaign.
In Georgia you have over 600,000 first time voters or voters who did not vote in 2014 who`ve already early voted. You`ve got states, you`ve got small red counties in Texas where the early voting has already succeed the actually on Election Day voting in 2014. At one point we used to worry the early voting was actually cannibalizing same-day voting. I don`t think that`s going to be the mathematic anymore, I think we`re seeing a point where early voting and same-day voting have to be seen when they happen, we can`t assume that they`re sort of working against each other as they have in the past.
WILLIAMS: Jason, you`re so right. And going back to your first point for folks who may be new to following politics at the molecular level, because they`ve all been men it`s been more than just a gentleman`s agreement, 43, for example, vowed to hold his silence while Obama was President. They`ve kept to this. It`s been a tradition.
WILLIAMS: I`m sorry.
JOHNSON: Yes, and everybody thought that that was the reasonable way to operate. And actually, it is. I mean part of what makes America great is the safe and clean transition from one administration to the next. If we get into a situation which now Trump has opened where everybody feels free to attack the person and who follows him, to disrespect them, to try to dismantle their entire legacy it erodes what makes us a functioning democracy.
And now this is going to be pretty standard. I expect Barack Obama to be one of the number one campaigners for every single midterm as long as Donald Trump remains in office.
WILLIAMS: Ken, I`ve got a quick one for you. The President was asked about his comments, perhaps promoting violence. He turned it around and apparently it`s a journalist`s fault. We`ll show this exchange. Talk about it on the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lot`s of Americans say, you`re encouraging violence with the way you speak.
TRUMP: No, no, you know what, you`re creating violence by your questions. You know. You are creating -- you and also a lot of the reporters are creating violence by not writing the truth. The fake news is creating violence.
WILLIAMS: So there we go again, Ken and last night he just came out and said the momentum had been stopped by, of course, the 15 pipe bombs and the death of 11 innocent souls in Pittsburgh.
THOMAS: Yes. I mean, it`s hard to follow the logic. But it speaks to, you know, the view that the President has, that attacking the media is a good strategy in a midterm campaign in any electoral setting, really. And so, you know, I think he feels that he can make this argument that that, you know, his views are not being accurately expressed, and that, you know, any story that he disagrees with is just, you know, he can just set aside simply because he doesn`t like the media that`s serving.
WILLIAMS: And it was our other guest tonight, Emily Jane Fox, whose work posted this afternoon has spiked the news cycle tonight and probably will into the weekend. And Emily, I guess the question has a viewer`s advocate everyone`s going to ask coming away from it is where was Cohen this whole time?
EMILY JANE FOX, REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: Well, for the last six months or so, after the FBI executed search warrants on this hotel room, his home and his office, at the advice of counsel he`s been silent, he has been focusing on his case, keeping his head down. The explanation that Cohen gave me when I asked him that question several times when we sat down earlier this week was, look, I`ve been following my lawyer`s advice. I did not say anything when the President attacked me and my credibility when his attorney attacked me and my credibility.
But he, like the rest of us, has been watching the President ratchet up his rhetoric over the last few weeks. He is the son of a holocaust survivor and saw the tragic events in Pittsburgh unfold over the weekend and then the President`s insensitive remarks following that. And he felt like he knew that what the President was saying publicly was bad. What the President had said to him privately was worse. And ahead of the midterms he felt like he wanted to speak up.
WILLIAMS: And I heard you say earlier tonight on this network you have since hitting the publish button heard from two people inside the Trump world saying, and I don`t want to give the synopsis in words that you wouldn`t use, but saying some version of, yes, these quotes read about right to us.
FOX: Yes, I heard from people who had formerly worked with the President who basically said that tracks, that -- those were similar in tone, in substance and in style to things that then Mr. Trump had said to them when he was their boss.
WILLIAMS: And so do you think Mr. Cohen has reached a decision about throwing it out there, about whatever legal jeopardy may come he sees the bigger challenge, he sees the biggest threat in front of him in the form of his old boss?
FOX: I think that Cohen is squarely focused on the sentencing, which will happen next month. I think that he would not say anything now that he deemed would put him in legal jeopardy ahead of the sentencing. That is really what I think is the biggest obstacle facing him, the thing that he is most concerned about right now in terms of what it means for his family, what it means for him.
But I will say it is sort of a risk for him to say anything and say anything so publicly and so inflammatory ahead of that sentencing. And to me that said this is a guy who hadn`t said anything for months leading up to this. But before the election he wanted to tell his story and whatever legal jeopardy that could put him in that was more important.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Jason, there`s no joy in asking this. But reading these quotes in Emily`s piece, how many Americans are kind of saying to themselves, yes, that sounds about right?
JOHNSON: I`d say by the latest polls, about 49%. I mean, the poll after poll after poll has shown that most Americans think that the President is divisive or racially hostile. What I have always maintained, look none of this is news, you can speak to David K. Johnson who`s been on this network that the President`s history of racist statements is legendary. But what has always been more problematic, look, being a racist is not a disqualifier to be serve on public office. We`ve had lots of racists, right.
But his policies are the manifestations of his personal biases. And that`s where the problem comes into play. Where -- since he believes that black people are inferior, he believes that countries led by black people are inferior that informs where the military goes, that informs how sensitive he is to policies that affect African-Americans, that informs how sensitive he is to policies that affect Jewish people and poor people and everything else like that.
When the President`s bigotry manifests itself in policy, that`s when our democracy is in danger. And that unfortunately what has made even more crystal clear by this article, that his biases will always lead his policy as opposed to a love for country or belief he has to represent everyone who lives in the United States of America.
WILLIAMS: Emily, I`m guessing there`s a moment that comes when you hit send on a story like the one you posted today, and you know there`s going to be attacks from the right that this is a straight up four days out pre- midterm hit job. And what`s your defense for that?
FOX: I think that this is -- its news worthy. This is someone who worked for the President for more than a decade saying that behind the scenes he knows of things that the President, he said, told him were incredibly racist. If this is considered by them a hit job by Michael Cohen, that is their issue with Michael Cohen, but I think the explanation that I got from Cohen was I`ve seen what has happened over the past few weeks, particularly over the last week, and leading up to the election, I couldn`t keep silent anymore.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Ken, if you were a betting man, do you think we`ll see a White House response to this at all? Do you think it will be in the form of something from the press secretary, or might we see something on Twitter from the President overnight in an Indianapolis hotel room?
THOMAS: It could be a combination of both. I think they`re likely to seek to discredit Michael Cohen and say, you know, he`s a convicted felon now and he doesn`t have any credibility. And, you know, they`ve cast him as a liar before. So I`m sure they`ll continue to do so.
WILLIAMS: Starting us off on a Friday night at the end of a long week though nothing compared to the week we have ahead of us. Our thanks to our front three guests. Ken Thomas, Emily Jane Fox, Jason Johnson. It`s always a pleasure having all of you. Thank you so much.
And coming up, the final few days of campaigning have arrived. We`ve ask Steve Kornacki for our end of the week approaching the final turn official viewers guide. What to watch for come Tuesday night.
And later Bill Kristol stops by to talk about the changes that might come to his political party in the space of about a week or so. The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Friday night.
TRUMP: But if Chuck Schumer, crying Chuck, and Nancy Pelosi, and the legendary Maxine Waters take power, they will try to erase our gains and eradicate our progress. That`s what`s going to happen. They`re going to work hard and we will be fighting. Oh, it will be -- it will be ridiculous, frankly. It will be bad for our country. The Democrats, and it could happen. Could happen. We`re doing very well, and we`re doing really well in the Senate. But could happen. And, you know what you do? My whole life. You know what I say? Don`t worry about it, I`ll just figure it out. Does that make sense? I`ll just figure it out.
WILLIAMS: It`s kind of a stream of consciousness night tonight in West Virginia, the confident President today betraying just a moment there of uncertainty, warning supporters in West Virginia that a Democratic takeover of the House is a real possibility. And with just four days until voters head to the polls.
Our national political correspondent Steve Kornacki back at a fully functioning big board to tell us what races he will be watching election day.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey Brian. Yes, that`s right. And here you go, this is going to be sort of what our command center looks like, use it four days from now we are inside of a hundred hours until the votes are going to start coming in. This thing is going to be electric with activity this time about 96 hours from now on Tuesday night. I want to take you through, look, the bottom line, you hear Trump talking about the Senate, you hear him talking about the House, the two numbers you`re going to be hear over and over again Tuesday night. 23, the Democrats need net gain of 23, if they get that, they get control of the house and two, Democrats need a net gain of two seats and they get control of the senate. Two seems small.
But, of course, the battleground there is difficult for Democrats. We are going to start getting clues, these are all the Senate races that are up, but we`re going to start getting clues on pretty early on election night about what kind of night this might be at 6:00 eastern time. Set your alarm right now. I hope you`re watching all day.
But 6:00 eastern we`re going to get our very first votes in a battleground Senate race, Indiana the polls close very early in much of Indiana, and we`re going to start getting numbers in Indiana right around 6:00. This race, of course, a very closely watched one, Democrat Joe Donnelly trying to hold off his Republican challenger Mike Braun in a state Donald Trump won by 20 points two years ago.
Of course the Vice President Mike Pence`s home state as well. Between 6:00 and 7:00, there is a fair amount of early vote I think in Indiana, so we may start to get a sense how is Donnelly holding up in the red state. That could be a home in for Democrats.
Then an hour later, 7:00 eastern, a lot of Florida, not all of it, but a lot of Florida closes. And of course in Florida you`re going to have that key Senate race there, obviously can Bill Nelson hang on in a state Trump carried by two points also that closely watched governor`s race, we`re going to start to get a readout at 7:00 there. That`s the Senate side. A little bit of the governor`s side.
Of course we mentioned the house. This, where the most of the action, I think, is going to be at least early on that question of can Democrats get the net gain of 23 seats? Get used to looking at this because we`re going to be showing you a lot of this on Tuesday night. What the heck are we looking at here? Well, here`s the country and what you see, there are 435 congressional districts in this country. Not all of them are competitive. Most of them are not, most of them we already pretty much know which party`s going to win.
What you see in yellow here, this is where we think the action is. This is where we think control of the House is pretty much going to be decided. What you see right here are close to 70 districts that are held by Republicans, where Republicans are on defense, where Democrats have some kind of a chance of a takeover. You see where they are in the map here. These are the districts, all labeled here, and we are going to -- you`re going to watch all night, if the Democrats win it turns blue.
If the -- you see it right there, the Democrats win it will all turn blue, if the Republicans win it will turn red. The magic number will adjust with that, the Democrats magic number, can they get it down to zero? And where does the action star on the House side? Let me just reset these. Where does the action start on the House side? At 6:00 in the state of Kentucky. Polls are going to close. Pressed the wrong -- there it is, polls are going to close in this district. Amy McGrath Democratic challenger against Andy Barr, the sixth district, it`s a Trump district. But this around Lexington, Kentucky, talking about University of Kentucky.
And this is going to give us a clue early in the night, perhaps, what kind of night it`s going to be on the House side. Are the Democrats over performing right around Lexington? Is McGrath making suburbs in the rural areas? Is Republican energy alive in the rural areas? We may get a sense there. And at 7:00, again, 7:00 eastern time look at all these competitive districts here in Virginia, look at all these competitive districts here in Florida, we`re going to get poll closings in these places and I think we`re really going to start to get a sense early on.
Here are we seeing a big blue wave form, are we seeing surprising Republican resilience, are we seeing something muddled, something suspenseful where we may have to go district by district, hour by hour, to see if that number -- if Democrats can just get it across the finish line, or Republicans can hold them off, there are so many possibilities, we have been talking about them for months. We do not know what the story is going to be Tuesday night.
We do not know what the plot twists are going to be Tuesday night. We do not know what the plot to start going to be, the American people are authoring them right now as they vote in early voting and as they head to the polls Tuesday and Tuesday night we will see what the story is. And this board, we are ready to pivot whatever the story reveals itself, we`re on it.
WILLIAMS: Steve, I think you just convinced me to watch. I was going to do something else Tuesday, but I`ll be with you after all. We have to set our alarm for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night there are deeper problems we have to deal with.
Steve Kornacki, it`s going to be a pleasure having you all the way for the ride ahead of us. When it`s over it will be early, early hours of Wednesday morning.
Another break for us, coming up, so much of what this President still wants to accomplish, depends on what voters say on Tuesday. I look at some of the issues that remain. Hanging in the balance when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This election will decide whether we build on the extraordinary prosperity that we`ve unleashed or whether we let the radical Democrats take control of Congress and take a giant wrecking ball to our economy and to our future. It`s not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Even as the president makes this election some sort of referendum on his presidency, just in the past few days as we showed you earlier in the broadcast he started acknowledging that the Republicans may indeed lose control of the House. And if that happens there`s going to be, shall we say, a new reality in Washington.
With us tonight to talk about it, two returning veterans, Jonathan Allen, NBC News national political reporter and Brian Bennett, senior White House correspondent for "Time" magazine.
So, Jonathan, I have a quote to read you out of Politico, and they write, "President Donald Trump and his allies have crafted a face saving plan if Democrats trounce their way to a House majority, tout Trump as the survive your of Republicans in the Senate." And we`ve kind of seen a little bit of that, including but not limited to the president`s complaint about momentum last night.
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely, Brian. That`s the sales pitch that they`ve been setting up. But if that happens, if Republicans maintain or even expand a little bit their control of the Senate and lose the House, you have to sit back on Wednesday morning and ask yourself if this is the worst political strategy ever conceived on the Republican side of the ball.
You`ve got basically a Senate expansion of a majority maybe by a seat or two. At the risk, at the cost of the House because what you`ve seen from the president over the course of the last several months is him campaigning almost exclusively for Senate candidates, campaigning in areas where he almost exclusively where he is talking to base voters, and campaigning in a way that really emphasizes his -- the values of his base and may alienate many other voters.
All of that has come at the cost, we think, and certainly if Republicans lose the House, the cost of voters outside of his base, meaning Democrats, meaning independents, meaning loosely affiliated Republican voters, particularly those educated suburban women that we`ve been talking so much about.
And to top it all off, you know, if you have a Senate majority that is less than 60 votes, you know, it doesn`t matter whether it`s 51 or 53 or 54. But losing the House majority means that the House Democrats would be in control of investigations. It means that they could stop anything that Trump wants to do in terms of an agenda, it means that they will have an opportunity to do messaging bills to set up for 2020, basically to help whoever their candidate is in that election against Donald Trump. So if you are him and you`re picking, you know, a chamber to affect the outcome of certainly the House would have been the one to go for.
WILLIAMS: Brian, as you know, Jonathan is the co-author of a book on the Hillary Clinton campaign. If such a book were to be written treating these midterms as a candidate, how do you think electoral history will view the president`s strategy of saying a vote for fill in the blank candidate I`m campaigning for is vote for me?
BRIAN BENNETT, TIME MAGAZINE SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s very interesting that Trump looked at history, saw that first term presidents often lose seats in the House, and decided he`s going to actually double down on a strategy of making this midterm election a referendum on himself and his record.
So he`s trying to buck history. In doing so, he`s trying to drive out loyal voters to the polls. By doing so. And it`s going to really blow back on him if the Democrats do take the House. It`s going to be a sign, a signal from the American voter that they don`t like the style of President Trump, they don`t like his rhetoric, they don`t like the base level of political discussion that we`ve seen over the last couple of months and that they want divided government and they want to bring his agenda to a halt.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan, back up to the last point you were making about if Democratic control happens. What will happen specifically? What do you think the first thing committee-wise will be that we see? And how do the Democrats discipline themselves not to bring everything, including the kitchen sink?
ALLEN: This is a real challenge for the Democrats. If, in fact, they take control of the House, the first thing you`re going to see is a sloppy ugly fight for the leadership of the Democratic caucus. You know, Nancy Pelosi wants to be speaker again. You`ve got Jim Clyburn, you know, the assistant leader trying, you know, to lay down his marker for what he wants. Steny Hoyer, the, you know, the minority whip right now. I mean there`s sort of a mess involved in that.
You know, they`re going to have to sort that out and I think that`s going to be a big part of the discussion will be which of these people is best to lead the House Democrats on a path that is sane and sensible for them to try to, you know, take this piece of power that they have if they, in fact, get the House, and expand that and to position themselves for 2020 versus kind of throwing everything at the wall and perhaps hurting themselves?
WILLIAMS: Brian, our country hasn`t always been quite this way. And for the Americans who spend every day kind of bummed out at our divisions, is there any scenario where our divisions don`t increase, if anything, starting Wednesday?
BENNETT: There are -- there is a scenario if the Democrats take the House, for example, and they come in with actual legislative priorities. The Democrats are going to have a choice. They`re going to come in, do they go for investigations whole hog and just try to make the White House -- the life in the White House miserable? Do they start talking about impeachment? Or do they actually talk about policy goals that they want to accomplish, things that Trump himself has talked about, like infrastructure, like coming up with a solution for DACA recipients, coming up with some sort of fix to Obamacare which, you know, so far all the Republicans have stymied and been against, but it`s something that could be on the table.
I mean, that all seems so far removed from the political reality where we are right now. But I think there is a low percentage chance that that is something that could happen, that Trump has shown a willingness in the past to talk to Democrats. And then they found that he turned his back on them. That happened with talking to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about coming up with some sort of solution for Dreamers.
But -- and so whether or not those groups can get past that bad blood and come together and talk about policy, I think, is going to be a big test. And we`re going to see that play out immediately after the midterms. So there is a rosy scenario out there. I`d say given the current environment it`s unlikely. But we`ll have to wait and see.
WILLIAMS: Well, let`s cling to hope anyway. Our thanks to two of our friends, John Allen, Brian Bennett, gentlemen, get some rest this weekend will you please. We`ll be seeing you both next week.
And coming up for us on a Friday night, Donald Trump has told his rally audiences that although he`s not on the ballot Tuesday in a way he is. Well, the question becomes what will his political party look like come Wednesday? One of the veterans of Republican politics in the modern era, Bill Kristol is standing by to join us next when "The 11th Hour" continues against a giant flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You don`t want to be saying the words Speaker Pelosi for the next two years. You`ve got to go out and vote for Greg and Jim and a Republican Congress. We need it. It`s going to be a very interesting day. Tuesday`s going to be a very interesting day. They`re not going to beat the day from two years ago, but it`s going to be interesting nevertheless. Was that a great time we had two years ago?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Twice in a week the president has found a way to say the best election was in 2016. That`s more from his Indiana rally tonight. Talking about the importance of Tuesday`s election while, of course, reminding the crowd about his win which was really something two years ago, he`s happy to relitigate if you ask. Still, Tuesday`s results will inevitably define the future of the Republican Party and Trump`s role as party leader.
And who better to talk about the GOP, post midterms, than our friend Bill Kristol, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, editor at large of The Weekly Standard.
Bill, I`d like to begin by showing you what Jeff Flake had to say for himself today about this ongoing debate about what direction the Republican Party should take. We`ll play this, we`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: We`re better off as Republicans sticking to what works, I think, and we have a good record on regulation and jobs and the economy. That`s a good message right now. But to see the fear mongering that`s going on, particularly with regard to immigration, is just unseemly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, Bill, regulation, jobs and economy would be one way of campaigning, the other way is to say there`s an invading army of brown people coming from the southern border with vague middle easterners mixed in, they`re going to come and invade our country and live in your house and take all your stuff. Which do you think would be more effective?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. And we`re going to send 5,000 or maybe more troops to deal with them and we`re going to raise the issue of birthright citizenship sort of out of the blue.
You know, I don`t know. People like me have been critical of Donald Trump. He`s proven us wrong before, I guess especially, at least once in 2016. So maybe he knows what he`s doing. But I`ve got to say, I really wonder as you look back, the voters who were energized in these rallies, they`re going to be there for the Republicans anyway. They can be -- you know, so they can be sent e-mails, can be communicated with and told you need to get out and vote to help support the president.
I should think with the economy as strong as it is, unemployment low, wage growth moving up, with no obvious nuclear -- no obvious foreign policy disasters, you know, happening, I would think a little more of an Oval Office strategy by the president might have been sensible. So sit back, have meetings on economic policy, meet with workers who have gotten pay increases, as sort of the slightly low key. You can`t even imagine Donald Trump doing this, of course, but a low key, stay the course, don`t risk the economic recovery message.
I think might have minimized losses more than amping it up on immigration, which appeals to his base, but I wonder about swing voters, certainly suburban voters who he`s been losing anyway I think will be turned off by this. But I even wonder about in the Senate races how well this plays in some of these states.
So I actually do wonder whether he -- I mean he was going to take losses anyway in this election, so I`m watching over and analyze it. But he`s made it more about himself and he had to be, the controversial version of himself than he had to be. And I think he`s driven a certain number, hard to know how many of these swing voters, saying, gee, if he makes this referendum on demoniazing immigrants and sending troops to border and birthright citizenship, I might have to send the message and vote Democratic.
Where if he hadn`t, people might say, you know, I`m OK with my Republican congressman or congresswoman. I kind of like what they`ve been doing. I`ve voted for them the last time, that`s why there`s Republican House and Republican Senate, I`ll vote for them again. So I think it`s been a -- I think there will be a lot of second guessing of Trump`s strategy if Tuesday night turns out to be bad for the Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Bill, stay where you are. I`m just going to sneak in a quick commercial break. We`ll continue our conversation with Bill Kristol right after this.
WILLIAMS: As we look ahead Wednesday morning will usher in a new chapter in the Trump White House from an unexpected -- from the expected exodus of the president`s cabinet and staff of the possible emergence, of possible primary challengers he could face in 2020. That`s why we asked Bill Kristol to come by tonight.
Bill, I have so many questions. First of all, there is a piece by our own website today, the headline is "Veteran GOP operative. I would never call you that. Bill Kristol wants to talk to Nikki Haley about running against Trump in 2020." So that subset question one. Question two, do you buy this theory that we`re going to see departures including but not limited to Kelly or Sessions or Rosenstein like effective the next day. What do you think Wednesday is going to look like in America?
KRISTOL: I guess let me answer this for you, Brian. Right before the break I said I thought a lot of Republicans question Donald Trump`s strategies running up to the election. But really it`s not Donald Trump`s strategy. I think they`ll question -- I`m thinking about it. It`s Donald Trump`s presidency because He hasn`t really have a strategy. He`s been himself.
But if he throws himself at the selection campaign and the results don`t turn out well and then he shakes up his White House staff and maybe Chief of Staff Kelly leaves pretty soon until a couple of months after the election and he gets rid of Sessions, maybe Rosenstein as well. I`m told that Rosenstien is sort of expects to be asked to leave. And there`s questions about the supervision of the Mueller investigation. And there`s further turmoil in the administration.
And I think people start to look up at November, December, January, Republicans, and say, well, the elections didn`t work out too well. The second half of the first term looks as chaotic, maybe more chaotic than the first half of the first term especially some of the people who are viewed as kind of guard rail and Donald Trump starts to leave.
And I think at that point you do -- and then if he just -- there`s a couple of bombs to Mueller report, the economy doesn`t stay, you know, doesn`t stay strong as it has been. I think you get real questioning going forward about do we want to tire ourselves to Donald Trump? One thing in the first year is to sort of defend Trump. But what`s the choice? He`s not going anywhere. You`re up for reelection, it`s too complicated to try and distance yourself they think and so they don`t. The government forward, do you want to nominated him, do you want him to carry the banner of the part forward. At that point, I think some of those who`ve been putting up with Trump start to say, well, wait a second, I`m not sure this is the way to go.
WILLIAMS: In 30 seconds or less, do you think apart of Nikki Haley would be receptive in meeting with Bill Kristol and hearing you out?
KRISTOL: I think she`d be happy to have lunch but maybe just coffee, not a full lunch, you know, in a very secret place under a dark basement, somewhere there in New York. I will let you recommend the place to meet, Brian. And I think people will look and have to raise the question, do they want to renominate Donald Trump in 2020, we`ll see of course what happens over the next year.
But I personally like to lay the ground work for primary challenge. I don`t know that Nikki Haley or someone else will pick up the mantle but it`s been done before. And as I say, I think this election Tuesday will be an important moment where people start to look forward as to Tuesday and asking do we want him do an additional four years of Donald Trump defining the Republican Party.
WILLIAMS: I`m going to go straight to my zygote guy to the dark base of restaurants in New York City. Bill Kristol, it`s always a pleasure. Thanks so much for joining us from Chicago, Illinois tonight.
As we run to our final break, first a programming note. There`s going to be special midterm coverage all weekend long as you might imagine. Tomorrow, join Joy Reid, Ari Melber, Stephanie Ruhle, Lawrence O`Donnell and others starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Then on Sunday night, I`ll be back here with Rachel Maddow, with Chris Matthews, with Nicole Wallace, with Eugene Robinson, with Steve Kornacki, all of us in one place in the big studio. For now "The 11th Hour" on a Friday night is back after this.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight comes from the front page of today`s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And it was reemphasis of the impact print can have even in the digital age. The headline in Hebrew, the first few word of the Kaddish, the mourners prayer in the Jewish faith. Just today, the last of the 11 innocent victims of the synagogue massacre was laid to rest, the matriarch 97-year-old Rose Mallinger.
With the Sabbath underway, today NBC News asked Azi Schwartz, the cantor at the Park Avenue Synagogue not far from us here in New York to recite the Kaddish as remember the loss of 11 innocent lives.
WILLIAMS: What a terrible horror of that great city and those strong families are dealing with. May their memory be a blessing.
And that is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week. Thank you for being here with us. Have a good weekend and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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